The Early Years, a self important reflection

I was born in St. Louis Missouri in 1976 back in a time when that was a pretty modern sounding year.  What was going on in 76? Well, people like Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg weren’t yet zillionaires, other people were doing lots of cocaine and Jimmy Carter was enjoying his brief flirtation with power. I was a squishy puddle of DNA and you were (most likely) not alive.

The first song I remember hearing and understanding was “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” in a shitty orange (!!!) Datsun driven by my babysitter’s boyfriend, Brian. I was pretty small. A little bit of internet recon tells me that song came out in 1972 so it doesn’t help me place how old I was when I heard it, but I recall being super scandalized that they’d just casually use names like “Julio” in a song and sing words that sounded the way people talk (“me and Julio,” instead of “Julio and I,” or just “Julio”…I was an easily shocked dork, even as a very small child) and being pretty excited by the way that Brian seemed to know all the words and enjoyed gleefully singing them as he careened that shitty Datsun all over the end of the 70’s.

The next song I remember hearing was Cecilia, also by Paul Simon and also with Brian, though this time he had the record and he’d put it on in his apartment and was cracking up at the line “I got up to wash my face, when I come back to bed someone’s taken my place.” This one scandalized me as well, even though I only had the most rudimentary idea about wieners and vaginas and all that. I thought the idea that people were having fun with the ideas of sex and being bummed out was absolutely nuts. Again, I don’t know how old I was, but these are super early memories. I couldn’t have been older than 6, and I’d place myself at more like 4.

Quick tangent. When I was 4, I was playing in the park by my house. The word FUCK had been spraypainted on the brick. Some big kid asked me if I knew what that meant. I said ‘no.’ He explained what it was (and that my parents had done that to get me here) and then walked off. I was blown away. I didn’t want to believe that what he’d said was true, but I knew deep down that it made sense. That’s why vaginas were so interesting and penises were so demanding. I asked our downstairs neighbor about the word fuck. She was in 3rd grade. She said “ask your mom.” I never did that, because the neighbor girl’s squeamishness only confirmed everything. When I was like 12, my mom bought me a book called “where did I come from” which contained a bunch of pictures of fat cartoons making tender love to one another, and sperms with smiley faces on them. I spent a long time looking at the boobs on the cartoon women, but I got no real elucidation beyond that out of the volume, as graffiti had already taught me everything I’d ever need to know about sex.

When I was ten, I moved to Chicago from St. Louis. In Chicago, as in St. Louis, I was viewed by my peers as a bit of a nerdy pussy. My positive attributes were that I wrote funny stories in writing class and I was good at drawing. Specifically, I could draw Garfield in just about any situation and I could draw these extremely masculine faces in profile (they were plagiarized from a drawing of a knight in a particularly trippy Sunday morning Bloom County strip, just fyi). Beyond that, I was a pretty classic dweeb. I mean, even those good attributes are pretty dorky, as I look back, but that’s really all I had.

When I was 11, my friend Nick and I found the Dead Milkmen tape Bucky Fellini and just devoured it. It was so weird and funny and scary and out there. It was like Paul Simon, but times a million. We couldn’t believe that such cool music wasn’t on the radio. Nick got a 4 track and we started doing songs together. Nick would play bass and guitar, and I would sing. Our first ever song, recorded when I was about 11 or 12, was called “fish in the sea” and featured the line “In Swaziland, the titties look like prunes.” We weren’t exactly visionaries, but we did start going to indie record stores and getting all sorts of weird music to listen to and try to get inspired by.

Around 12, I got one of my dad’s old army shirts and just started to wear it every day. It said “Kelly” on the pocket and it was way too big and I wore it kind of like a coat. People made fun of me for wearing it every day, but I continued to do it…I was already getting made fun of, so it’s not like things got worse. Suddenly I was just getting made fun of for being dirty instead of being a total fag. It was actually kind of a nice improvement.

Next, I started to get more and more seriously into skateboarding and right around then things kind of switched around for me. Suddenly, without realizing it, I found myself deeply immersed in subculture. It turned out that I already knew about bands like the Dead Milkmen and other ‘underground’ types of bands…and these were the bands in the skateboard magazines, the bands that the skaters listened to, so I kind of hit the ground running there. Also, the army shirt thing was huge because (and I didn’t know it at the time…I just thought it was cool that it had my name on it and was my dad’s) it looked like I’d given a bunch of thought to subverting the idea of how kids are supposed to dress…when I saw the other punks in combat boots, I realized that we were doing similar stuff, but for me, it was all completely accidental. Anyway, suffice it to say, it was pretty great to go from being a total homo who didn’t understand football to a person who kind of knew and enjoyed all the things that a group of people were enjoying. Also, ironically, as soon as I completely stopped giving a fuck about being accepted by the kids on the playground, I became totally accepted, and the fact that I threw like a spaz stopped being a beat-uppable offense.

I’ve just been thinking about this ever since yesterday when someone hit me up about an interview. When I asked if it was gonna be about the new Lawrence Arms record, the journalist (heh) said (among other things) “we want to find out what makes you tick.” At that point, I realized I have no idea what makes me tick. I guess it’s an army shirt, a skateboard, the Dead Milkmen and some Garfield drawings.  Those are the items that transformed me from wimpy dweeb into the absolute, number one coolest human being to ever live, ever.

And that’s why you kids should all listen to Paul Simon.



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11 Responses to The Early Years, a self important reflection

  1. Sigh says:

    Hate to be that dildo, but Cecilia is actually Simon & Garfunkel.

    Regardless, both Paul Simon’s solo work and S&G make for awesome human beings.

  2. Party says:

    That all sounds extremely familiar except I was born in 75 and I drew perfect semi-trucks, was obsessed with Kiss and found the Ramones.

  3. Heathbar says:

    Born in ’82, wrote stories starring a single mother with three daughters, dug Boyz II Men and found Propagandhi.

  4. kanthackit says:

    Wow.. That was my favorite entry ever! I can relate so much it scares me man.. Similar first song intro but it was Highway To The Danger Zone. I too was all about drawing detailed faces in a front closeup profile w/out bodies. Was Born in 83′ & learned about sex from grafiti & playground kids.. Made my first song @twelve while beating on the back of an old Mexican guitar as a drum while my bestfriend Dan played an out of tune busted up acoustic gem & chanting: “I’m begging on my knees cuz I’m fucking a chicken.. Need some pussy something nice, for the lickin. No friends no lovers so I’m writing this song, I really need a bitch in a tight black thong..” seriously- I can’t even believe my buddy Dan & I wrote that in freaking Middle school.. Or that I even remember it..haha let’s see –I too was a classic dweeb/ wuss & often scared.. Also recognized for my wild creative writing in elementary school & put into TAG in early years for my stories.. My first punk band was the 1st goldfinger album when I was 13.. Before goldfinger sucked or even were ska much really?? Was it selftitled?? Anyway, the one w/ the alien chick on the cover & it has a song called “fuck LA” on it.. Good shit & I was hooked finding bands like Pulley & Lagwagon shortly after.. Also skated & began getting more into punk while watching skate videos & I even wore my dads shirts before they were cool & was criticized for bein a dirtball by my buddy’s only to eventually have the same dad shirts become hip & wanted by hipster type pretty boys years later when they actually fit.. I don’t know beex–Maybe everyone can relate to your blog entries like this & that’s why we love reading.. But for me this one really hit home.. Either way your shits got voice..thanks for sharing..Yer mah son, Son!! Late- Schmit OUT!! <<néw girl<<

  5. Rachel H says:

    This makes me think of how someone had written “Fuck Abe Lincoln” on the wall near the women’s bathroom door on the back of the bandshell at a park near my cousin’s house in the 80’s. This was in some 6,000 people farm town in NW Illinois near the Quad Cities. I will never stop laughing over it. That same park was where I learned that you shouldn’t call your dad a bastard.

  6. Anonymous says:

    You need to change your side bar pic.

  7. s says:

    pfft you didnt have spice girls OR power rangers …kids couldnt really live till the 90s.

  8. whocaresright says:

    I grew up in the OC-in a well, wealthy area, yuck. You were either a nerd or a look-alike perfect fashionable and plastic everyone else (hard to live up to), or a punk, metal head, skin head aka:weirdo.(easy) I was a plastic until seventh grade. Then I was introduced to the hard core punkx. They were the friendliest, funniest, most fun, down to earth people I had ever met. They got along with most everyone. I was kinda relieved that the world I knew was not all that there was ! My first punk show was 999 and the Dickies and I’ll never forget it because my friends were all of age and I wasn’t, so I had to wait outside until the show was over, when I sat down and waited for about half hour, the door man realized that my group wasn’t coming out for me, lol., i didn’t care cuz I could hear the music, I told the door guy. then, he just let me in!!!! 🙂 California was kinda a lot different for me, in that, friends are of all ages, our group(group bcuz there weren’t many of us) from our neighborhood ranged from fifth grade skater, drummer, singers up to 22 years of age, home tattoo artists. Most of the teen boys were homeless squatters, or super rich kids whose parents just left them to live in their house and paid all the bills, so other runaway punkx all lived/hung out there. And us girls were, well, the girlfriends , lol. It was a freedom and fun that I will never forget and am glad I found. I think Mike Ness was from the way older punkx generation from Tustin, OC. He was a junkie and went to the Newport Beach NA meetings, lol. People used to get all stoked to see him there I heard. Some of those guys lived outta storage units, no joke. Full with built in bathrooms, and soundproof band practice space. BLAH BLAH. I found no difference from the Chicago punkx. moved there when I was 20. Fireside was the best. Went to almost every show, good or bad, I was always looking for new music. So, IDK if the music blows, Bk. It will be great I’m sure . And if not, then i’ll just turn it off and curse you, lol. Just kiddin’ (do ppl really do that?)

  9. ray says:

    i dont belive you kid is a biter! ask andy hardy. the klopecs

  10. T i g e r says:

    And furthermore, hi.

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